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Public Meetings On Housatonic River Cleanup Plan Hosted by Supporters — And Opponents

Public meetings on a new toxic waste cleanup plan for the Housatonic River are being held in two Berkshire County towns this week. The first meeting was organized in Lee by a group that opposes the plan.

A now-closed General Electric plant in Pittsfield used oil that contained PCBs when it manufactured electrical transformers. It released the toxin into the river.

GE has since cleaned up sediment containing PCBs in the first two miles downstream of the plant.

A cleanup agreement announced last week covers the next stretch, into Great Barrington.

The plan calls for GE to put what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls, on average, "lower levels of waste" in a disposal site near the Lee-Lenox line.

Tim Gray of the Housatonic River Initiative, which opposes local disposal, said an open discussion is needed for town residents — just like they'd have for a cannabis shop.

"Here, we have a toxic dump," Gray said. "And we're sort of outraged that they did this without ever telling the town they were going to do this." 

The agreement was reached in a mediation that was closed to the public.  The selectboards of the municipalities along the river each voted unanimously to support it.

The towns of Lee and Great Barrington are hosting two other informational meetings this week.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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